2. What were the central grievances of the women?
Heres one witness whos called Female African. The Commission says, Now what do you wish to tell us? And the witness says, What have we, women, done to warrant our being taxed? We women are like trees which bear fruit. You should tell us the reason why women who bear seeds should be counted. Dont you agree that the world depends on women? It is the women who multiply the population of the world. We suffer at the hands of Chiefs. They do many evil things and want to place the responsibility therefore upon women. We are not prepared to accept it. Our desire is that all the old Chiefs should be deposed and their caps taken away from them.
Dont you all, and here it notes that shes addressing all the women in the hall, agree with what I have just said? And then it notes there are instantaneous shouts of Yes, we do. The Chiefs do not give justice in the cases they try in the Native Courts. They do not try them properly. We want them all to put down their caps. That is all I have to say.
The Commissioner says, Who do you want to try cases, to settle disputes? And the woman says, You would select new men, the old ones should be put aside. Then the Commissioner says, What is your principal complaint against the old ones? Is it in connection with counting or tax?
And the woman says, Counting in order to tax women. Women come into contact with men, become pregnant, and bring forth children. Such useful women are now asked to pay tax. That is our grievance.
The womans name is Enyidia, and she volunteered to give evidence for the Commission. She was not forced to come here and do that. One of the interesting things about Enyidias testimony is that shes very much speaking to the concerns of colonial officials and to what the colonial officials thought this war was about, the taxation of women. But theres a subtext to what shes saying. She seems to be very concerned with child bearing and pregnancy and fertility, and this is something that is going completely past the Commissioner. She clearly seems to think that somehow womens role in the world should preclude them in principle from being taxed. That maybe its okay to tax men, maybe, but women are useful in some way and so to tax them is some sort of an outrage. The role as a mother is very important and has something to do with her grievance, with her objection to being taxed. Its not just an economic issue.
And there seems to be a subtext, throughout, that women somehow believe that the counting and the taxation was harming their fertility in some way or could potentially harm their fertility.